Need Caffeine To Stay Awake? Here Are Your Best Coffee Substitutes

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Coffee is among the most widely consumed beverages in the world — and for good reason. The caffeine in coffee can put a spring in your step, enhance memory and focus and can help you power through an afternoon slump.

"Coffee binds to neurotransmitters in the brain and produces psychological and physiological effects that help boost our mood and our energy levels," says Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., a primary care physician at Henry Ford Health.

Why Should You Go Easy On Coffee?

Although coffee has plenty of perks, it's important to strike a balance. Relying too heavily on it has significant drawbacks, including:

  • Elevated heart rate and palpitations. The caffeine in coffee can speed up your heart rate and make you feel jittery.
  • An uptick in stress. In addition to increasing your heart rate, caffeine can exacerbate stress, particularly if you're already under pressure and not getting adequate rest.
  • Sleep problems. Drinking coffee, particularly later in the day, can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep and stay that way. "It's best to drink it in the morning since caffeine stays in your system for five to six hours," Dr. Moghaddam says.
  • Gastrointestinal distress. Coffee can have a laxative-like effect and produce tummy troubles, particularly if you're not drinking enough water.

Caffeine is also an addictive substance, which means that you may have to increase your intake over time to get the same beneficial effects — and that's a recipe for disaster. "When you become addicted to coffee and try to curb your use, you may suffer from withdrawal headaches," Dr. Moghaddam says.

What Are Some Alternatives To Coffee?

Coffee may be the go-to beverage to help you get moving, but it isn't the only way to unearth newfound energy. In fact, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your body's natural feel-good hormones.

Looking for a coffee substitute? Try these six strategies:

  1. Get moving. Turns out that exercising can help stave off mental and physical fatigue. "Exercise releases feel-good hormones called endorphins that can help pump you up for the day ahead," Dr. Moghaddam says.
  2. Step into sunshine. Make sure to carve out time in the sun, even if it's cold outside. Sunlight will not only help you get some much-needed vitamin D, but it can also lift a low mood, particularly if you struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  3. Get sufficient sleep. Most people underestimate how much sleep they need. Part of the reason you may feel sluggish at 3 p.m. is because you didn't get enough shut-eye. Your best bet: Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night — and shut down your devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  4. Drink more water. Unfortunately, most of us don't get enough water to support our daily activities. "Dehydration can cause you to feel sluggish," Dr. Moghaddam says. "So sipping on a tall glass of water, particularly if it's cold, can act as a powerful pick-me-up."
  5. Try tea. Craving a hot beverage as you inch toward the afternoon? Consider tea. Most herbal teas are caffeine-free, but their energizing aromas can help pep you up without the effects of a stimulant. Even caffeinated tea tends to have less caffeine than coffee, particularly if you steep the bag for less than a minute.
  6. Consider aromatherapy. Scents such as lemon, wild orange and rosemary can help energize both body and mind. Need to perk up? Consider running a diffusor with essential oils or dabbing an energizing scent on your pulse points.

Safer Coffee Sipping

Health authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recommend limiting caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams per day. That's about four 8-ounce cups daily. Sipping a fancy coffee drink? An extra-large cup could boast more than twice the daily limit.

"Keep in mind that you're probably getting caffeine from sources other than coffee, too," Dr. Moghaddam says. Cola beverages, energy drinks and even chocolate contain varying levels of caffeine.

Your best bet: Pay attention to ingredient lists, try to limit your caffeine intake to less than 400 milligrams daily and incorporate some of the above strategies to help you power through your afternoon without more (and more!) coffee.

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To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center in Capitol Park and Harbortown.

Categories: FeelWell

Tags: Primary Care